What is the significance of Genesis 4:23-24?

23 Lamech said to his wives,
“Adah and Zillah, listen to me;
wives of Lamech, hear my words.
I have killed a man for wounding me,
a young man for injuring me.

24 If Cain is avenged seven times,
then Lamech seventy-seven times.

These two verses in Genesis 4 make up what is referred to as Lamech’s “Song of Vengeance”.  There is literary and theological significance that comes from Lamechs words, I will list some of them as follows…

1. Lamech is the end of Cain’s line of descendants.  His behavior as a murderer shows the depth of curruption that had come from the line of Cain who himself was the first murderer.

2. There is a parallel here with the line that came from Cain and the line that came from his brother Seth.  Cain’s descendent named Lamech represented murder, death, and the end of Cain’s line.  But with Seth’s descendent named Lamech the line did not end, rather was the father of Noah who would be God’s instrument to save humans from the flood.

3. We know that only death can come from Cain’s line, because we know from Genesis chapter 6 that all people on earth, except for Noah’s family, will be wiped out.

4.  Finally, there may be some literary tie via the Gospels.  Lamech represents vengeance, murder and unforgiveness.  He says “If Cain is avenged seven times, then Lamech seventy-seven times.”  But Jesus came with a very different paradigm, one of grace in which he says just the opposite of Lamech.  Matthew 18:21-22 says:

“Then Peter came to Jesus and asked, “Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? up to seven times?” 22Jesus answered, “I tell you, not seven times, but seventy-seven times.”

Clearly there is a juxtaposition taking place in the texts, not only between the line of Cain and the line of Seth, but the world view of Lamech and the world view of Jesus.

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